There were runners at the corners in the bottom of the sixth inning with the score tied. Commack was on the bases and looked to provoke a throw to with a steal of second. Smithtown East had the correct counter play by having the ball cutoff behind the mound for a throw home. If the Bulls had executed it perfectly, there’s no telling how the game would have played out.
But Jill Cestaro watched the whole thing play out, saw a small bobble and felt she could make it. The Cougars sophomore slid home with the go-ahead run and it uncorked the Commack offense. The host Cougars followed the play with six of their 15 hits and went on to a 10-5 Suffolk AA Tournament first-round win.
“I was on third and the go-ahead run so I had to be really aggressive on the bases,” Cestaro said. "That little mistake was our chance to get the lead.”
Eighth-seeded Commack (13-7) scored three times in the first inning and twice in the fourth, but still was in a tie at 5 with the No. 9 Bulls (12-7).
“It’s softball and you need to score runs,” Commack coach Harold Cooley III said. “Plays on the bases can lead to more energy from the team and (elevated) play. It can be the difference between winning and losing.”
“Jill put us ahead and once you’re ahead, you look to capitalize and keep tacking runs on,” said Julie Park, who had two RBIs, including a run-scoring single in the Commack sixth. “When the hits start coming, there’s a momentum and it just carries us.”
In the five-run sixth, Michelle DeFina, Julie Helmes and Rachel Abzug also had run-scoring singles with two outs. “And all those hits came with two outs,” Abzug said.
Abzug finished with three hits and three RBIs, Helmes had four hits and Claire Varghese had two hits and two RBIs for Commack, which advances to play top-seeded Noth Babylon on Friday.
Marissa Formosa had two RBIs and Gabriella Zarcon had a pair of triples and a pair of runs for Smithtown East, which next plays an elimination game against a team to be determined.
Commack last won a county softball title in 2019 when Park and Helmes were freshman on the junior varsity team. They watched with intent as the program won a second championship in four seasons.
“We saw up close what winning a championship was all about,” Helmes said. “That’s what its all about. That’s what we want to make a run at."